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Fr Ben Saliba: Reclaiming devotion to the Sacred Heart

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Good intentions in art: the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Good intentions in art: the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Fr Ben Saliba

The month of June is traditionally associated with devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

How many of us have an image of the Sacred Heart in our homes? Amongst the posters of sports stars and celebrities in your children’s bedrooms, and between the family photos and shopping lists, the Sacred Heart of Jesus deserves a place on your wall.

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Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began in the 17th century when Our Lord appeared to the French nun, St Margaret Mary Alacoque. In Our Lord’s appearance to St Margaret Mary he asked to be honoured in the symbol of his heart of flesh.

He asked for acts of reparation, for frequent Holy Communion, Communion on the first Friday of the month, and the keeping of a Holy Hour.

What is so special about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and why should we honour it? In the first instance, we should honour it because Jesus asked us to, because it is a divine heart, the heart of God.

The heart of God desires a deeply personal relationship with you and your family. When we think about the heart of God, we are reminded of all that Jesus said and did, his ultimate act of love on the cross for our salvation and his willingness to carry our burdens.

The idea of the heart of God stretches back deeper in the tradition than the private revelation of God to St Margaret Mary, which the church has approved. It has its ground in the Scriptures, where Jesus reveals his heart to us, saying, “Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).

Jesus made several promises to St Margaret Mary which, over three centuries later, are active and relevant for all Christians. One in particular addresses something severely lacking in our culture today: the discord many suffer in their home life.

Among the other promises Jesus made to those who honour his Sacred Heart—including to be our comforter in affliction and “the source and infinite ocean of mercy”—Jesus adds the following pledge: “I will establish peace in their homes.”

While Jesus has mercy on parents with energetic children, hormonal teenagers and nosey neighbours and family members, the absence of this “noise” is not the peace Jesus is offering in his promise.

Mere quiet—the value of which is not to be underestimated—is the peace the world offers you. Most of the time we use it to turn to behaviours of escapism, like Netflix, social media, Super Saturday of sports.

This kind of peace (and the distraction with which we often fill it) ultimately never lasts because we haven’t invited the heart of Jesus into our own hearts.

In a world that is so consumed with popularity, status and material possession, Catholics can very easily obsess about these things and lose sight of what is most important—relationship with God.

The month of June is a reminder that an image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart can ground us and bring true peace to the individual first.

When Jesus dwells in your heart, your world can be falling down around you, yet nothing will disturb that peace because you possess the greatest gift of them all—the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose love and mercy is not dependent on worldly things, but is enduring.

Just like reclaiming Sundays can get you off to the right start, reclaiming devotion to the Sacred Heart can increase your relationship with the heart of hearts: the meek and humble Jesus.

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